moldybluecheesecurds 2

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daft Hands

And nothing of value was lost

The U.S. House passed the proposed economic stimulus yesterday, rife with tax cuts to appease Republican representatives despite their proven smaller impact on the economy.  And what did this bit of conciliation buy the President and the Democrats?

Zero Republican votes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Eat dirt, get worms, be healthy

That's the conclusion from students of "the hygiene hypothesis," currently being tested by scientists as an explanation for the increase in autoimmune disorders (e.g. allergies) in Western countries. 
One leading researcher, Dr. Joel V. Weinstock, the director of gastroenterology and hepatology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, said in an interview that the immune system at birth “is like an unprogrammed computer. It needs instruction.”
...“Children raised in an ultraclean environment,” he added, “are not being exposed to organisms that help them develop appropriate immune regulatory circuits.”
Do wash hands after using the restroom or handling dirty diapers, the scientists say, but that old mantra to "wash up before dinner"? 

Maybe not.

Two disturbing tales from the world of food

First, you've heard of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)?  It's a sweetener that, by virtue of being cheaper than sugar, has replaced it in everything from soda pop (sweetness) to bread products (for texture) to frozen foods (for preservation). Oh, and HFCS contains mercury.  Seems that despite an alternative production method that avoids mercury contamination, most HFCS producers don't bother.  Great.

Like peanut butter?  How about when you get a peanut butter product with salmonella?  Turns out the plant that kicked out contaminated spread that has sickened many and killed several had found contamination several times before, and shipped the product anyway.

The [just-completed inspection] report describes a plant that was not constructed to produce safe food. “There were open gaps observed” near air-conditioner intakes that were as large as a half-inch by two and one-half feet long, the report stated. Previous inspections of the plant by the Georgia State Agriculture Department found dirty surfaces, grease residue and dirt buildup throughout the plant. They also found rust residue that could flake into food, gaps in warehouse doors large enough for rodents to enter, and numerous other problems.
 Mmm, PBSJ sandwich...

Only five red states?

If you're counting partisan affiliation of adults, it doesn't look good for Republicans.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

NYT Magazine piece on female arousal

A fascinating look into the world of sexologists, and a few of them who are particularly focused on how women are aroused.

A few sneak peaks:
  • In a test, one of the sexologists measured arousal of subjects both by physical signs (e.g. genital blood flow) and by subject ratings (via a keypad).   Men universally said they were most aroused when all the data suggested they would be.  Women, on the other hand, would often indicate no arousal on their dial but display many of the physical signs.
  • Viagra works for men because the desire for sex is almost always present and impotence is typically physical
  • There's no Viagra equivalent for women, because desire is often unrelated to physical signs of arousal. 

You know it's cold when you can sled on a towel

Why gas prices are heading north

Gas prices have gone up again recently, even as crude oil stocks in the U.S. have been growing. Robert Rapier reveals why.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dear Onion, please resubmit

Eight years ago, the Onion ran what it thought was a satirical headline:

Today, I'd like to ask them to re-run the article with President Obama.  This time we may actually get a laugh. 

Thoughts for a Beautiful Day

Today we inaugurate the first black president of the United States, and I am joyful about the possibilities.  I'm also amazed to think that next year, I'll have a 9-month old baby who will only ever have had a black president.  If Obama wins a second term, my little boy will be learning about presidents in elementary school and his reality will be that a president is a black man.

What a time to be alive.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

One disease that we're losing against

And it's not AIDS.  It used to be completely curable by antibiotics, but now it's developed resistance to almost every variety.

It's tuberculosis.  And Nicholas Kristof illustrates why we need to being paying more attention to curing TB.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A proof: government spending is superior to tax cuts

There's been a great deal of discussion among the nation's economists about the coming federal economic stimulus package, mostly centered around the relative economic impact of tax cuts versus pure government spending.  I think I can simplify this for them.

You're one of millions of Americans who are either unemployed, underemployed, or worried about your job.  Do you want a tax cut or a job?


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Recession and Stimulus 101

Sometimes I just like to let the experts have a say on how the Obama administration should handle this economic crisis.

Step 1: Give money to states to prevent severe cutbacks in state spending.  Otherwise, any federal stimulus package is being offset by "50 Herbert Hoovers."

Step 2: Focus on government spending, rather than tax cuts or private spending.  Individuals are particularly likely in a recession to either save or pay down credit, which has no stimulus effect.  But every dollar of government spending is a dollar of economic stimulus.

Monday, January 05, 2009

MN Senate race: quote of the day

Let's be frank: Norm Coleman doesn't have much of a future in electoral politics. Defeated Presidential candidates sometimes have nine lives, but defeated Senatorial candidates rarely do, and in his career running for statewide office, Coleman has lost to a professional wrestler, beaten a dead guy, and then tied a comedian.

His analysis had previously noted that Coleman's forthcoming legal challenge on absentee ballots is very unlikely to secure him enough votes to win.  I thought Senator Coleman was a weathervane politician, but he at least had the decency to reply to every letter I wrote him.  Can't say that for Minnesota's Democratic Senator.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

YRU screwN me?

Got an unlimited text message plan for your cell phone?  Good for you, since the prices are rising.
Senator Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin and the chairman of the Senate antitrust subcommittee, wanted to look behind the curtain. He was curious about the doubling of prices for text messages charged by the major American carriers from 2005 to 2008, during a time when the industry consolidated from six major companies to four. [emphasis mine]

And why not?  Texting volume has increased exponentially.  But the cost doesn't.  In fact, the bandwidth for text messages costs nothing - it's always been there.
text messages are not just tiny; they are also free riders, tucked into what’s called a control channel, space reserved for operation of the wireless network. That’s why a message is so limited in length: it must not exceed the length of the message used for internal communication between tower and handset to set up a call. The channel uses space whether or not a text message is inserted. 
In other words, we're getting screwed.  With cell phone companies, that's no surprise.